Hands On

Help for Lost Cell Phones


Certain technology products are unintentionally irritating. The Zomm and Phone Halo—two new gadgets aimed at preventing you from losing your cell phone—are irritating by design. With some 285 million mobile phones in use nationwide, the number of phones that go missing each year is about 30 million, according to Nashville-based cell-phone insurance provider Asurion. Zomm and Phone Halo seek to protect users from the annoyance of having to rush back to the restaurant they left 45 minutes ago.

The Zomm, which costs $79.99, is a circular gadget about an inch and a half in diameter. Once you pair it with your phone via Bluetooth, its large central button flashes every five seconds to reassure you it's still within range. Walk more than 30 feet away and it begins to flash more rapidly, vibrate, and emit an alarm that commands attention. Its center button also operates as a panic button when held down for 15 seconds. First it emits an alarm, and then, if not released, it summons help to the location of your phone. Zomm also incorporates a speakerphone that allows you to answer incoming calls. The sound is fuzzy for regular use, but it's better than fumbling around a large bag for a ringing phone.

The Zomm works with any Bluetooth-enabled phone, but the $59.95 Phone Halo—about the size of a rubber eraser—is currently limited to users of BlackBerrys and phones using Google's (GOOG) Android operating system. (The company says iPhone compatibility is in the works.) Setup is more involved; you first have to download and install the appropriate app on your phone, then configure it. In addition to its audible alarm, you can set it up to e-mail you, or, if you don't mind the embarrassment, to tweet a lost-phone message to your Twitter followers. You can use the Phone Halo in reverse by attaching it to some other object you don't want to misplace, like a briefcase. Separate them too far, and the phone is preprogrammed to play the karaoke favorite (There's) Always Something There to Remind Me.

Of the two options, the Zomm does more things and is easier to set up. For iPhone users, the $20 difference is a small price to pay compared with the agony of separation from their beloved gadget.



WHEN PARTING CAN BE SWEET SORROW

Install these apps and you won't worry about losing your phone

By Arik Hasseldahl

Find My iPhone, $99/yr: (iPhone) Locates your phone on a map and messages the person who found it. Free 60-day trial.

Mobile Defense, free: (BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android, Symbian) Real-time phone location; IDs a new SIM card. Due this month.

Lookout, free: (BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android) Besides finding your phone, remotely backs up and wipes out data.

WaveSecure, $19.99/yr: (Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Mobile) Locates phone; security options; moves data between phones.

Jaroslovsky is a technology columnist and reviewer for Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Businessweek.

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